On the 18th December 1857 Samuel Jeffrey, a local Preston farmer was passing by the Agnew property when he noticed a bundle of clothes in the waterhole. The waterhole was about eight or ten feet in diameter and about seven or eight feet deep. A row of logs lay across the hole, with only a gap for a bucket to be lowered in to retrieve water.
Using a stick Jeffrey jabbed the clothes and to his horror a child’s arm appeared. Hooking the stick in the clothes he pulled the body out of the water. Taking the child Jeffrey went to the Agnew’s house and called out but nobody appeared.
Jeffrey’s son now appeared and they returned to the waterhole (presumably with the body). They quickly noticed a second bundle of clothes and retrieved the body of a second child. The children were 2 years old and eight months. Both were dressed and wearing a bonnet.
Fearing for the worse the two men asked around and established the mother was nowhere to be seen. They returned to the waterhole and after a brief search retrieved the body of the mother, 24 year old Irishwoman, Bridget Agnew. There were no obvious signs of violence on any of the bodies.
The husband, James Agnew, had been out working and returned to the shocking news that his entire family were gone. Jeffrey had testified that he had never seen Agnew drunk but Agnew himself admitted that on the night before, his wife and he had had words.
He had been at a meeting and had arrived home late and a little worse for the wear. They had an argument at which time he admitted he pushed her and may have hit her. She said that she would leave him and take the children with her. He said she could go but that the children should stay. Agnew stated that they did not argue often nor violently and that his wife did not drink. The children were well behaved and they had no money issues.
James Agnew slept in another room that night and the next morning had gone in and said goodbye to the two children, eating bread and butter in bed. He said goodbye to his wife who, clearly still mad at him, did not reply. He never saw them again.
The jury found that Bridget Agnew had murdered her own children by drowning and then committed suicide.